Published Online:https://doi.org/10.1287/orsc.1050.0133

Sensemaking involves turning circumstances into a situation that is comprehended explicitly in words and that serves as a springboard into action. In this paper we take the position that the concept of sensemaking fills important gaps in organizational theory. The seemingly transient nature of sensemaking belies its central role in the determination of human behavior, whether people are acting in formal organizations or elsewhere. Sensemaking is central because it is the primary site where meanings materialize that inform and constrain identity and action. The purpose of this paper is to take stock of the concept of sensemaking. We do so by pinpointing central features of sensemaking, some of which have been explicated but neglected, some of which have been assumed but not made explicit, some of which have changed in significance over time, and some of which have been missing all along or have gone awry. We sense joint enthusiasm to restate sensemaking in ways that make it more future oriented, more action oriented, more macro, more closely tied to organizing, meshed more boldly with identity, more visible, more behaviorally defined, less sedentary and backward looking, more infused with emotion and with issues of sensegiving and persuasion. These key enhancements provide a foundation upon which to build future studies that can strengthen the sensemaking perspective.

This article appears in INFORMS Analytics Collections Vol. 15: 25 Years of INFORMS.

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